EGU23-1586, updated on 10 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

When the desert was a lake: Tectonics, climate, river piracy and hominids in the Kalahari

Liviu Giosan1,2, Juan Pablo Canales1, Sarah Ivory3, Zhixiong Shen4, Cindy De Jonge5, Timothy Eglinton5, Julie Lattaud5, Nicole Russo5, Negar Haghipour5, Florin Filip2, Nitesh Khonde6, Andrew Carter7, Eduardo Garzanti8, Sergio Ando8, Fulvio Franchi9, Koobakile Kgosiemang10, Sallie Burrough11, David Thomas11, Read Mapeo10, Kebabonye Laletsang10, and the OKAMAK Extended Team*
Liviu Giosan et al.
  • 1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Geology&Geophysics, Woods Hole, United States of America (
  • 2Institute for Fluvial and Marine Systems, Bucharest, Romania
  • 3Pennsylvania State University
  • 4Coastal Carolina University
  • 5Geological Institute, ETH Zürich
  • 6Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences
  • 7University of London
  • 8Universita di Milano-Bicocca
  • 9Botswana International University of Science and Technology
  • 10The University of Botswana
  • 11Oxford University
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

The Okavango rift zone/delta and the Makgadikgadi paleo-megalake form a dynamic system in northern Kalahari, where tectonic activity, climate change, sedimentation, and biota have interacted in a complex pattern. Previous research suggested that the region may have been a hotspot for hominid evolution.

Here we present results from the first scientific deep drilling project (OKAMAK) in the northern Kalahari, Botswana. Two drill cores, OKA (230 meters) and MAK (210 m), were drilled in the Okavango delta and Makgadikgadi paleolake. Cores recovered shallow and deep-water sands, muds and evaporitic lithologies of the Cenozoic Kalahari Group extending across the unconformity into the Cretaceous/Jurassic Karoo Group sandstones.

We discuss initial stratigraphy, chronologies and paleoenvironmental information for this novel sedimentary record, present hypotheses to be tested on the complex climate of the region, history of river piracy, evolution of the delta and infilling phases of Makgadikgadi and assess the international collaborative potential of this yet to be fully understood region within a future multi-platform ICDP-IODP initiative.

OKAMAK Extended Team:

Mark Behn, Jean-Arthur Olive, Vashan Wright

How to cite: Giosan, L., Canales, J. P., Ivory, S., Shen, Z., De Jonge, C., Eglinton, T., Lattaud, J., Russo, N., Haghipour, N., Filip, F., Khonde, N., Carter, A., Garzanti, E., Ando, S., Franchi, F., Kgosiemang, K., Burrough, S., Thomas, D., Mapeo, R., and Laletsang, K. and the OKAMAK Extended Team: When the desert was a lake: Tectonics, climate, river piracy and hominids in the Kalahari, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-1586,, 2023.